• Romney in New Hampshire (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

    Mitt Romney would later describe it as one of his biggest regrets about his first run for public office.

    In 1994, Romney was a virtual unknown running to unseat Ted Kennedy as U.S. senator from Massachusetts. He campaigned on his business record as a turnaround artist at Bain Capital. But Democrats turned Romney's Bain record against him, casting him as a cold-blooded capitalist who put profits before workers.

    The Democratic argument was illustrated by a strike at the Ampad paper plant in Marion, Ind., which had recently been acquired by Bain. The firm had fired most of the plant's employees, offering to rehire them back for reduced wages and benefits. Romney, who was on leave from Bain at the time because of the campaign, had no direct role in the Ampad dispute, but Kennedy seized upon the drama inside the company. Kennedy even appeared with some of Ampad's workers, who traveled to Massachusetts to protest Romney's claim of being a job creator at Bain.

    Romney distanced himself from Ampad and other Bain-controlled companies by insisting he had no day-to-day role in what Bain was doing. Yet in an interview with the Boston Globe a few weeks after his loss in November 1994, Romney admitted that he was haunted by his failure to respond to the attacks on his record at Bain. He often woke up at night thinking about his missed opportunities in the campaign, he said.

    And he said his biggest mistake was failing to quickly respond to Kennedy's attacks over Ampad.

    "It left in the minds of voters I was a bad guy, a corporate downsizer and raider, and I should have responded more vehemently," Romney told the Globe. "I am a big boy and I know how politics is played. But I thought it would play more to the facts."

    Eighteen years later, President Barack Obama and his Democratic allies have spent tens of millions of dollars on television ads casting Romney as a dangerous corporate raider who doesn't care about the middle class. In recent days, the Obama campaign has expanded that attack, accusing Romney of being secretive about his estimated $250 million personal fortune, much of which he accrued during his time at Bain. It's all a part of a larger effort by Democrats to cast Romney as a rich guy out of touch with the Americans who are struggling under the bad economy—a strategy that could help Obama deflect criticism that he hasn't done enough to turn the economy around.

    Romney and his staff have been slow to push back on the Democratic attacks, which has prompted much hand-wringing among Republicans who worry that the Obama campaign is going to cement an impression of Romney in voters' minds before the party's presumptive presidential nominee can define himself.

    "I am not sure what they are thinking," a Republican strategist, who declined to be named because he is advising the Romney campaign, told Yahoo News. "Yes, you don't want to be baited into answering every charge. But you also don't want to allow your opponent to define you before an American public that really doesn't know a lot about you yet."

    On Friday, the Romney campaign made some changes. It hired Danny Diaz, a GOP operative who previously worked for John McCain and the Republican National Committee, to handle rapid response with the news media. And the candidate agreed to sit down for interviews with five TV networks—ABC, CBS, CNN, Fox News and NBC—in what is presumed to be a part of the campaign's pushback against the Bain attacks.

    Read More »from Romney’s Bain drain: Is he repeating the mistakes of his 1994 campaign against Ted Kennedy?
  • Former President George H.W. Bush, who famously said "Read my lips: no new taxes" at the 1988 Republican National Convention before going on to raise taxes during his presidency, does not think highly of pledges that keep lawmakers from hiking rates.

    In a forthcoming interview with Parade Magazine, the elder Bush knocks Americans for Tax Reform President Grover Norquist, whose organization has convinced hundreds of policymakers and candidates to sign a pledge promising never to raise rates.

    From the magazine:

    During your presidency you gave in on your "no new taxes" pledge. You've been vindicated in many respects for that decision. I wonder how you view the "no new tax" pledge from Grover Norquist that seems to be requisite for GOP political candidates.

    GB: The rigidity of those pledges is something I don't like. The circumstances change, and you can't be wedded to some formula by Grover Norquist. It's—who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?

    For Americans for Tax Reform, the feelings appear mutual. The group is currently using the one-term president's image on its Facebook page to remind Republicans what happened to "the last Republican to compromise on tax increases."

    Americans for Tax Reform

    "Any lawmaker willing to consider such a deal is poised to become another fool of history," the text reads below the photo.

    Read More »from Bush 41: ‘Who the hell is Grover Norquist, anyway?’
  • Former President Bill Clinton is defending Democratic attacks on Mitt Romney's personal finances and describing himself as "perplexed" and "surprised" that the Republican standard-bearer hasn't released more of his tax returns.

    "I am a little surprised that he only released a year's worth of tax returns," Clinton said in an interview with NBC's Today Show.

    "That's kind of perplexed me, because this is the first time in, I don't know, more than 30 years that anybody running for president has only done that," he said. President Barack Obama's campaign forwarded Clinton's comments to reporters.

    Clinton defended the Obama campaign's increasingly strident attacks on Romney's personal finances—notably the former Massachusetts governor's now-closed Swiss bank account, his holdings in the Cayman Islands—saying those issues are relevant to the election.

    "Just as relevant as the going over my record as governor got when I ran for president," he told NBC, underlining that Romney has put his vastly successful history as an investor "at the forefront" of his campaign.

    Read More »from Bill Clinton ‘perplexed’ and ‘surprised’ Romney hasn’t released more tax returns

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